Used Cars

Petrol or diesel? The pros and cons when buying a used car

With new car sales going through a slump, particularly over the past 12 months, many people are considering the option of a used or near new vehicle.

Hybrid and EV vehicles are indisputably on the rise. However, for most buyers the choice of either a petrol or diesel engine vehicle remains the prime choice. This raises the old dilemma – which is the best option, petrol or diesel?

The petrol or diesel option

A glance at the range of used cars Manchester currently has on offer reveals not only a vast spread of makes and models, but many makes that are typically available with either a petrol or diesel option.

It is always handy to enter the used vehicle market with a clear purchasing plan – presumably factors such as vehicle age, size and condition, budget, and roadworthiness will already have been considered.

Many canny prospective buyers already know exactly which make and model they are looking to purchase, which allows them to quickly target potential vehicles as they appear on the market. So, what are the pros and cons of petrol vs diesel (or vice versa) and which is the best purchasing choice?

The myth of the ‘dirty diesel’

One of the old chestnuts still circulating is the belief that diesel engines generally run dirtier, and the subsequent concern of increased tailpipe emissions (and subsequent potential for MOT failures) has meant the diesel market is often entered cautiously, if indeed at all. It’s very likely that VW’s recent emissions scandal did little to assuage this concern.

Perhaps a testament to this notion is the fact that with the new vehicle sales slump during the pandemic, diesel vehicle sales were hit far worse than petrol vehicle sales.

The truth is, if properly maintained, the diesel engine is no more susceptible to higher tailpipe emissions than its petrol counterpart.

Power and performance

Older diesel engines were known for their general noise and drive ‘clatter’. However, this is less of a factor in modern times, with superior technology and sound deadening.

The main point of difference with respect to power delivery lies in the fact that diesels are lower revving, and typically deliver best torque lower in the rev range. A petrol engine by comparison tends to rev higher to gain maximum performance. For normally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engines, the petrol option may generally provide better response in terms of acceleration compared to the diesel engine.

With many diesel and petrol models also available with a turbocharged option, the result is that a turbo petrol engine can emulate the diesel engine in creating better power in the low rev range.

Cruising or bruising?

The type of driving that the vehicle purchaser intends to do will play a key role in the ultimate decision of petrol or diesel. Generally the diesel engine is nicely suited to motorway cruising, and its low end torque makes it perfect for towing things like trailers and boats.

Petrol engines can generally be thought of as providing nippier performance and acceleration, although the modern diesel can still provide very reasonable acceleration and performance for those motorways and smaller roads.

Economy and running cost

Expect to pay a few pence less at the pump for petrol. However, in terms of fuel economy, the diesel engine is certainly more efficient. For a motorist driving average distances over the year, the diesel powered option will be a little cheaper to keep topped up.

Running costs will vary from vehicle to vehicle. However, some diesel components may make servicing a little more expensive for some vehicles.


The ultimate choice of petrol or diesel comes down to the kind of driving experience the owner is seeking, as well as the type of driving conditions the vehicle will be used in.

Many car enthusiasts prefer the more natural feel and response of the traditional petrol engine. Others prefer the flexibility and pulling power of diesel.

With these thoughts in mind, perhaps the ultimate test of suitability is in getting behind the wheel for a test drive.

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